Last time, a thug threatens to break Harry’s legs. Sadly, they’re still currently intact.
Harry informs us that “Gentleman Johnny Marcone” looks like a friendly guy. Everyone else is terrifying.
“Hey, Hendricks. You should really wear your seat belt. Statistics say you’re fifty or sixty percent safer.”
Cujo growled at me in the rearview mirror again, and I beamed at him. Smiling always seems to annoy people more than actually insulting them. Or maybe I just have an annoying smile.
This is the “mature” version of Conner’s nice socks quip. What’s really obnoxious about it here is Harry’s playing dumb about why it annoys people. This is calculated, so he knows exactly what he’s doing, yet he’s presenting it to the reader like a wide eyed kid going gosh, I have no idea why he’s so mad, I was just being friendly.
(Incidentally, Harry’s presence promptly fucks up the radio (1900s) while the rest of the car (1900s) continues to be smooth perfection, even though we’re specifically told that he can’t be in any car more recent than the 1940s and this is a very shiny and new one. This is particularly disappointing because having their awesome and surely very expensive car break down under them as a result of inviting a wizard in to threaten would’ve been a scene you really never see.)
Marcone, thank god, decides to just skip forward to his offer of paying Harry to sit around for the next two weeks. I’m not sure if this is a sign of him being nice or a sign that he’s rolling in so much drug money that chucking it at problems seems like less effort or to say that Harry is such a badass the mob would rather bribe him than end up fighting him. (I am pretty sure there is never an actual reason for why they don’t want him investigating. The author knows that everyone with any involvement in the case is supposed to threaten the detective to stop and doesn’t consider that normally they have some sort of motive for doing so.)
Harry, though, isn’t too interested in two weeks of free money. I’m pretty sure this is morals here, though on a practical level, he actually can’t take the money either – it’d be thousands of dollars now, sure, but he was just told that if he doesn’t produce something this time, the police will never call him up again and they’re pretty much the only people employing him.
Marcone’s smile faltered. His expression became earnest. “Mister Dresden, I am quite eager to establish a positive working relationship, here. If it’s the money, I can offer you more. Let’s say double your usual fee.” He steepled his hands in front of him as he talked, half-turning toward me. My God, I kept expecting him to tell me to go out there and win one for the Gipper. He smiled. “How does that sound?”
Now, here’s the thing. Harry tells us proudly that he totally worked out that this guy doesn’t want him to investigate the murder!!! But that’s not what’s important here. What’s important is Marcone is desperate enough to keep this quiet that he responds with doubling his offer and not a hint of threat, despite threats obviously being his usual business staple given that’s all that came out of any of the thugs’ mouths.
Harry is totally failing as a detective. He isn’t asking leading questions or anything. Even if his morals mean he would never accept criminal money, he doesn’t even do the thing where he pretends to be interested but with reservations, or says that he’d love to but already promised the police to check the spell, but could be convinced not to take on another job about…what is it particularly Marcone’s concerned about, again?
Given Marcone is supposedly the reasonable face of crime, it might even actually work to just say that as far as he knows, there’s no connection to Marcone, so let’s just go our separate ways with money staying in wallets and leg bones staying in legs. Given absolutely no one seems to even know what wizards do, Marcone could be freaking out that he’s going to try to do a divination, see a bunch of unrelated crimes, then run to the police with it, which Harry obviously won’t do given the police don’t believe him and supposedly aren’t interested in taking Marcone down in the first place. Or something. The odds that Marcone actually knows what he’d be doing and wants to prevent that is actually really low when you consider there’s so many more ways to be wrong.
This would even still allow Harry to tick his precious poor-yet-ethical box, since trying to reason with the guy that the murder investigation (or at least Harry’s end of it) will have little to nothing to do with him will also mean Marcone now has no reason to bribe him.
Harry decides to alpha male a bit with a good stare, and Marcone’s just yeah fuck you I always win chicken and they’re ~soulgazing~ each other now. In a very manly and heterosexual fashion. Just to be clear, I wish I was implying they were gay because that’d be entertaining, but no, we are solidly in manly men’s manly hetero adventures today.
Okay, so, for some reason, if a wizard locks eyes with anyone, the two see into each other’s souls. That’s why everyone’s been avoiding his eyes even though plenty of them don’t believe he’s a wizard or magic exists.
He was a soldier, a warrior, behind that relaxed smile and fatherly manner. He was going to get what he wanted and he was going to get it in the most efficient way possible.
He was a dedicated man-dedicated to his goals, dedicated to his people. He never let fear affect him. He made a living on human misery and suffering, peddling in drugs and flesh and stolen goods, but he took steps to minimize that suffering because it was simply the most efficient means of running his business. He was furious over Tommy Tomm’s death-a cold and practical kind of fury that his rightful dominion had been invaded and challenged.
He intended to find those responsible and deal with them in his own way-and he didn’t want the police interfering. He had killed before, and would again, and it would all mean nothing more to him than a business transaction, than paying for groceries in the checkout line. It was a dry and cool place, inside Gentleman Johnny Marcone. Except for one dim corner.
There, hidden away from his everyday thoughts, there lurked a secret shame. I couldn’t quite see what it was. But I knew that, somewhere in the past there was something that he would give anything to undo, would spill blood to erase. It was from that dark place that he drew his resolve, his strength.
That was the way I saw him when I looked inside, past all his pretenses and defenses.
Except, naturally, for his super important dark secret, which apparently still had the defenses up just fine.
Anyway, this pretty much boils down to “he’s evil, but he’s cool evil”, fitting in with our sexy high class prostitute. There’s suffering somewhere, but let’s just not think about it and anyway he’s minimizing it so there’d just be more without him.
There’s various reasons this doesn’t seem convincing to me. One is that, sadly, minimizing suffering is often not the most efficient way of doing things. I could actually buy it if he was primarily a drugs person, because selling drugs actually works best in a stable environment with as few drive-by shootings as possible, and there’s various types of drugs with some being worse than others. Stolen goods is a lot iffier – requires a good flow of theft, which is going to be increasing net misery. And flesh is one of those things where you make more money the more misery you can wring out of it.
You can theoretically have someone running a criminal empire that involves no raping of teen runaways, but you can’t do that on the basis of profit. Profit says to get preteens for raping and then sell the tapes of it for more money.
Ironically, setting this guy up as the newcomer to the area just makes that worse – established criminal empires might have some sort of code about shit they don’t let happen, but people who have to claw their way up from scratch, not so much. It’s like the difference between a king and a dictator. It’s the same thing, but the guys who had to fight to get it and keep fighting to keep it are going to be way more horrible in practice.
The soulgaze is reciprocal, and Harry explains he’s not sure quite what he looks like inside, but whatever it is it’s so hardboiled that most people freak out and one even fainted upon seeing his soul, but that Marcone has outbadassed him by being totally chill at whatever it is he saw. Also, he realizes this was totally what Marcone meant to do all along, which enrages Harry because Harry gets angry at everything.
Just a second later, I felt scared to death of this man. I had looked on his soul and it had been as solid and barren as a stainless-steel refrigerator. It was more than unsettling. He was strong, inside, savage and merciless without being cruel. He had a tiger’s soul.
Harry has presumably never soulgazed an actual tiger, because I’m like 99% sure their souls aren’t like an empty steel refrigerator.
“I think you’ll be happier if you come down with the flu for a few days. This business that Detective Murphy has asked you to look into doesn’t need to be dragged out into the light. You won’t like what you see. It’s on my side of the fence. Just let me deal with it, and it won’t ever trouble you.”
“Are you threatening me?” I asked him. I didn’t think he was, but I didn’t want him to know that. It would have helped if my voice hadn’t been shaking.
“No,” he said, frankly. “I have too much respect for you to resort to something like that.
Going by fandom Marcone the bestest nicest criminal will either remain true or get even worse, and it’s barely tolerable just in this introduction. He’s so nice and he only wants Harry not to help the police because he’s so concerned about bringing the killer to justice himself and not bother Harry with the sordid details!
They say that you’re the real thing, Mister Dresden. A real magus.”
And so we return to the urban fantasy staple of magic being real but only the really wise like Marcone believing what they hear, except that we just had the blatant magic of soulgazing so he doesn’t need to rely on filtering secondhand information at all.
He ends by saying he doesn’t want to end up in conflict and he’s sure they’ll be able to live and let live, so Harry, presumably annoyed the author is out-sueing him with Marcone, snaps back that yeah, he bets Marcone doesn’t want a conflict with someone as dangerous as Harry.
Marcone, being an actual adult, just shrugs this off and moves on with life while Harry stands on the sidewalk telling us again about how oh my god Marcone was so incredibly cool about the soulgaze thing he’s even cooler about it than other actual wizards oh my god he is so so cool.